Can Video Games Provide an Emotional Experience?

Shoot first, cry never.

Shoot first, cry never.

Esquire Magazine recently published it’s December “Genius” issue which publisher David Granger says focuses on, “…people whose ideas we pray will power a better tomorrow.” Dozens of brilliant people are highlighted and it’s an inspiring read cover to cover but one particular profile gave me cause to write this entry.

If you look at the top selling video games over the past year you see names like Madden ’08, Metal Gear Solid, GTA, Halo, Call of Duty, Guitar Hero and on and on. While these are quality games that provide hours of end user entertainment, it can be reasonably assumed that no one would ever consider them “art.” You shoot or race or strum along but there’s really no emotional involvement aside from the occasional expletive-ridden tirade.

Jason Fagone’s article succinctly titled, Toward A Future In Which Pixels and Code and Computers will Make You Cry and Feel and Love focuses on a video game programmer named Jason Rohrer who deftly provides a lesson in Humanity 101 with his breakthrough game Passage.

The game is short, exquisitely simple and has actually driven many players to tears by the end. I won’t spoil it here but the bigger question in my eyes (and in the Esquire article) is when (not if) will video games become accepted as an artistic medium on par with music and movies? Speculation seems to hint that a benchmark “Citizen Kane” like game is on the horizon which will introduce a new genre that doesn’t include killshots, faux-rocking out or even dead prostitutes. Adding to the speculation is the fact that Mr. Rohrer is consulting with Stephen Spielberg on a project that very well could be the epiphany the industry is looking for.

While the video game violence debate will rage on and first-person shooters will continue to sell, nothing will do more for “video games as art” than an unnervingly moving and gripping title that can inspire self-reflection and fill an emotional void. Agree?

Posted by: Nick


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